Braam’s iconic Liberty building offers the [green] Print



Welcome to “The Fourth Place,” an extension that converges the productive aspects of the home, retail, and traditional office environments.

Image: supplied by Liberty.

The images above were captured inside the Liberty Center campus in Braamfontein. This isn’t just an office, it’s a work cafe. This is a new concept that is the result of the global movement towards companies showing greater awareness of ESG goals and Group Executive of Real Estate Services, Nev Lalloo, who is thinking progressively.

Lalloo and his team have taken one of the city’s most iconic buildings and gutted it to the core not only of its old finishes and fixtures, but of its ancient perspectives on the employee’s relationship with the workspace .

The Liberty Group first opened its doors in Braamfontein in the late 1950s. In fact, it has been at the heart of Braam since 1957. The institution remained one of the main business occupiers throughout the two decades that followed.

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Old Braamfontien in the 1950s. Image: Pinterest.

As the group grew, so did its personnel component, leading to the construction of its current headquarters, which was completed in 1982. Staff who had been at Liberty around that time remember like the brown and beige workspace.

“It was characteristic in its typical office design of that time and for us it was great. It was a professional environment and made us feel part of something bigger,” recalled one staff member.

But as the wear and tear of daily working life took its toll on the iconic building’s furniture, finishes and fixtures, office life turned grim.

Pictures of the offices before the review

Image: supplied.
Image: supplied by Liberty.
Image: supplied by Liberty.
Image: supplied by Liberty.

The exodus to Sandton

Around this time, several top companies that were based in the CBD areas of Johannesburg, were moving their head offices to the luxurious surroundings of Sandton. But in 2016, Liberty made the decision to stay at Braam, saying it had a deep connection with the institutions and entrepreneurs that had developed in this area.

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When the pandemic broke out, Liberty staff, like the rest of the country, were forced to work from home. But this was a sense of relief for them, as they no longer needed to spend those long hours in a tired building that urgently needed a new breath of life.

Image: supplied by Liberty.

As 2021 progressed, so did the return to the office, and the company knew it needed to create a work environment that encouraged its staff to spend more time in the office.

A transformation plan

This is where Lalloo and his team came in.

Lalloo told The Citizen that the team didn’t just want to renovate the old office site, they wanted to give it a complete makeover, an idea that had been in the works since early 2019. The project was executed in two parts: the Freedom Park. (including an innovation hub) and Liberty’s Workplace Transformation from the interior.

ESG considerations

As an institution with a name that seems to stand for social justice and impartial governance, it was a given that they would be setting high ESG goals, which will be reflected in the transformation of their offices. Thus, they adopted an environmental sustainability approach that focused on improving resource efficiency, employee well-being, and life-cycle cost/impact.

And so, with all of this in mind, the 4 floors were stripped down to the core as construction crews prepared to transform some 44,000 square meters of the building focusing on what Lalloo described as the three pillars of the new design: space. , services and technology.

Space

“The intersection between people and place, and between culture and nature is what creates what we call habitat and we see this in every floor (which are aptly called forests, given the amount of fresh plants and green that characterize these spaces). The idea of ​​habitats evolved into the idea of ​​neighborhoods within the building where each business unit would gravitate and do its thing.

“These neighborhoods are made up of traditional desktop workstations and meeting rooms, but also a new set of more than 25 different types of work environments that were selected based on what our employees said they would do in the office.

Workspaces are now designed based on the activities people would engage in. This ecosystem of spaces includes the park which is set up with WI-FI in every corner”, he explained.

Image: supplied by Liberty.

The foundation of the aesthetics included an overhaul of the building’s HVAC and lighting that has raised air quality and building comfort. In addition, Liberty has reported that these interventions have resulted in public service cost savings of over 30%.

Services

Office Concierge is probably the right kind of buzzword to describe the new kind of service that both staff and visitors to the building are now experiencing.

“In order to create an invigorating experience within our campus, this required an enhancement of our service offering and shifting the traditional focus from just facilities to a greater focus on hospitality,” he explained lol

Yes, hospitality is no longer limited to hotels and event venues.

“Like if you visit a hotel and order room service, when you visit the Liberty office, you can experience neighborhood service,” he said.

Image: supplied by Liberty.

But it’s not just limited to food and beverage services. The design also features a mother’s room for new mothers to express milk, as well as a daycare room for those parents who need to take their children to work on those days when they didn’t foresee the school closing due to water cuts or the babysitter coming. the last minute

Image: Cheryl Kahla.

technology

The designers initially conducted a digital workplace assessment. The result of this exercise was to give them a road map to develop services based on demand.

“We paid particular attention to key technology sets that have a significant impact on the user experience of a building: visual audio, building sensor space reservation and access management,” he explained.

This is seen in upgraded security systems as well as the installation of specialized systems to connect and interact with co-workers in remote locations.

Image: supplied by Liberty.

The environment

The hypothesis of biophilia (human connection with nature) is strongly reflected in the interior design of the office. Lalloo explained that this was intentional as they carefully curated a selection of natural plants that created a deeper connection to the outdoor spaces on campus.

Another aspect to consider was the Liberty Indwe Park. The park’s design and purpose focus on two key themes, namely reconnection and well-being.

Image: Courtesy of Bartley Partners.

It was designed as a place to nourish the body, mind and spirit.

Lalloo explained that, to achieve this, the scheme echoed the human nervous system through winding pathways and reflexology walkways, plants and trees, all themed based on medicinal and health properties, as well as various evocative pieces of art.

“All of this combines to create the experience of an urban oasis, located in the center of Braam and on one of the main gateways to the Johannesburg CBD. The hope and intention is that this will be a public space that become a central point for people to experience the hub of Braamfontein”, he explained.

Project completed in 5 months

It might have been years of planning in the making, but the actual execution of the project was completed in 5 months this year. Upon completion, the institution managed to increase its Green Star certification rating from 2 green stars to 4 green stars. This was a significant achievement for them, and Lalloo believes they will soon achieve a 5-star rating in 2023 once some minor improvements are completed.

Liberty is currently conducting a post-employment evaluation survey and based on these findings, they will use the learnings to further improve workplace performance.

“This is just the beginning of the evolution,” promised Lalloo.

Here are some more pictures after the transformation of the Braamfontein offices.

Image: supplied by Liberty.
Image: supplied by Liberty.
Image: supplied by Liberty.

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